In evaluating Chris Tillman’s first four starts of 2017, manager Buck Showalter  has to consider a different clock for the season. He has to think about the

In evaluating Chris Tillman’s first four starts of 2017, manager Buck Showalter  has to consider a different clock for the season. He has to think about the fact that the veteran right-hander is still working his way into form after being shelved for all of spring training before spending the season’s first month rehabilitating shoulder problems. 

So, patience continued to be involved in assessing Tillman's start Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins, when three of the four runs he yielded came in a 36-pitch first inning that limited him to just five innings.

“I have a lot of confidence that he’ll find it,” Showalter said. “And sometimes keep in mind where he is in the process of pitching. I try to keep that in mind. But there’s a flow. Defense is a certain rhythm you have when guys are throwing strikes and working quick. It seemed to be a lot crisper defense behind it. 

"I'll tell you, I thought his stuff was good as far as crispness and stuff. But he got into some counts where he had nothing there but the fastball, and it kind of center-cut on him in the first inning. But then you see the other side of it the rest of the way."

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Tillman put 11 men on base (nine hits and two walks) and threw at least 20 pitches in three different innings, but a nine-pitch third inning and 15-pitch fourth allowed him to get through five innings.

Part of Tillman's new normal is giving himself more time to get loose, which he has said can lead to some first-inning struggles.

“He struggled in the first inning, but as we’ve seen Chris a lot, it’s kind of what separates him,” Showalter said. “In some situations, he made some pitches to get out of it and keep us engaged in the game. His command wasn’t very good early, but he kind of found it in the third inning. It’s a good-hitting team, a lot of left-handers. He’s got some weapons to defend himself against it and it finally came around for him a little later. He was fortunate to get out of that inning, but it was another of those outings where guys are throwing 100 pitches in five innings. It’s a challenge.”

Tillman has failed to get beyond five innings in three of his four starts this season — he went a season-high six innings in his previous start — but he didn't look at Wednesday as a setback.

"Definitely didn't feel like a setback," Tillman said. "Physically felt great, as good as I've felt in a long, long time. Just mechanically I was off, timing was off, tempo was off. Fortunately we were able to make the adjustment there later in the game. Positives I'm able to take from the game is I finished with three zeroes, I guess."

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